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Franken highlights rural plans

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By Scott Wente

and Don Davis

St. Paul Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Two E's -- energy and education -- are key to keeping rural Minnesota vibrant, Al Franken said.

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The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate said Wednesday that investing in alternative energy projects and addressing challenges facing schools will help keep young people and families from fleeing rural areas.

Speaking at a University of Minnesota forum, Franken said the federal government and Congress should either fully fund and fix education mandates -- specifically No Child Left Behind policies -- or scrap them entirely because they place strains on small rural school districts.

"I would fund it and try to reform it," Franken said, adding that the effect of federal education requirements on small schools is among reasons families leave those towns for regional centers such as St. Cloud and Moorhead.

Franken also said there is evidence young people are more likely to stay in rural towns that are home to wind-energy projects.

Improving broadband Internet service to small towns also could help keep young people from leaving for larger cities, he said.

Responding to a question about flooding in northwest and southeast Minnesota, Franken said the government's role should be to respond immediately and effectively and to make sure there are programs to help people who lost their homes or businesses.

Franken's comments on rural Minnesota came during a broader discussion of economic issues. Republican Sen. Norm Coleman speaks at a similar University of Minnesota forum today.

2 debates left

Public broadcasting hosts the only two remaining U.S. Senate debates.

On Friday night, the three major candidates appear on Twin Cities Public Television's "Almanac." It airs at 7 p.m. on most Minnesota public television stations, but some broadcast it later. And the show is repeated through the weekend on some stations.

Minnesota Public Radio takes the final debate on the air live at 7 p.m. Nov. 2, the Sunday before Election Day. It also is a one-hour event.

McCain pulls back

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times reports John McCain is cutting his Minnesota advertising.

McCain already is giving up on Wisconsin, some insiders say, after he promised to return to the state "again, again and again" because he felt he had a chance there. But with the election less than two weeks away, it appears McCain is focusing his money on states his campaign feels he can win. Polls show him trailing in Minnesota.

Anti-Coleman

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A new anti-Sen. Norm Coleman commercial began Wednesday, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee highlighting the incumbent's support of President Bush's proposal to allow Americans to invest some Social Security contributions in the stock market.

"In these tough economic times hard working Minnesotans are worried about their future, and the Bush-Coleman plan to privatize Social Security just adds to their concerns," Democratic committee spokesman Matthew Miller said. "With the stock market taking the country on a daily rollercoaster ride, the last thing Minnesotans need is another politician who supports Bush's risky plan to gamble away Social Security."

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